The English Past: Evocations of Persons and Places

By A. L. Rowse | Go to book overview

HILLESDEN IN BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

IF you take a map of Buckinghamshire and look a few miles south of the old county town, between it and the Claydons -- that have their memories now for all lovers of English letters -- you will find a name that means nothing to you: Hillesden. It is indeed a forgotten place: hipped up there on its little hill, the fat pastures and flat water-meadows all round it, isolated from any main roads, with only one little road winding up to it: a dead end. And yet it was far from being that in its heyday; only its heyday was three centuries ago, the time of the Civil War, which left such a mark upon it and on the lives of all that lived there. Now, hardly anyone; just a cottage or two, a church, a farm, where once was all the bustle, the coming to and fro of a great house, with the family, important, numerous, ramifying in every direction, affecting the life of all this countryside. Now all vanished and gone; where the house stood but an open space in the fields, the fields revealing under the grass the slopes of the former terraces.

It was on a November day, the first of the month, that my friend and I set out in pursuit of this place. We were walking from Steeple Claydon, the way that so many generations of Verneys had gone to visit so many generations of Dentons. There in the village was the big Camp Barn around which Cromwell's small army, some two thousand men, was encamped and from which they advanced to the attack on Hillesden House: March 1644, three hundred years ago. Over the Planks we went, directed by a superb young soldier newly returned from the wars: duly we negotiated the duck-boards laid across the low-lying watermeadows and out into the open, lonely country beyond.

Sitting on a gate at the foot of the slope we ate our sandwiches, looking up to the corn-yellow haystacks moulded firm and clear by the November sun. There was a mellow-

-46-

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The English Past: Evocations of Persons and Places
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • All Souls (1945) 1
  • Bisham and the Hobys 15
  • Hillesden in Buckinghamshire 46
  • Dear Dr. Denton - An English Gentleman of The Seventeenth Century 66
  • The Milton Country 85
  • Swift at Letcombe 113
  • Afternoon at Haworth Parsonage 143
  • Thomas Hardy and Max Gate 165
  • John Buchan at Elsfield 184
  • Nottingham: A Midlands Capital 196
  • D. H. Lawrence at Eastwood 217
  • Alun Lewis: A Foreword 238
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